Chinese Inventions, Science & Civilisation

Early History in China, Paper, Silk & Great Discoveries. In the fields of science and civilisation, China’s early history claims numerous inventions which laid strong foundations for the modern world.

From kiln-fired pottery and silk to the first toothbrush, discoveries in China moved in leaps and bounds. The Chinese invented kites and umbrellas, chess and playing cards, tuned drums and bells, matches, brandy, whisky and a calendar divided into 365.25 days.

Ancient Chinese inventions added a new dimension to science and civilisation, far ahead of the western world. Achievements ranged from mathematics and physical science to engineering, astronomy and improving life at Court and in the fields.

Great Discoveries in China, Silk & Paper

Recent archaeological digs uncovered textiles dating back to the eastern Zhou dynasty. Many claim however that silk is much older, discovered accidentally over 5000 years ago by Lei Zu, queen of the legendary Yellow Emperor. At first, silk was produced exclusively for the Court and the secret jealously kept until around 200 BC. The trade continued to flourish and brought much wealth to the empire.

Paper came later, around 105 AD, the brainchild of Cai Lun who adapted the technique to use a variety of materials including bark and hemp. Bamboo was favoured under the Tang dynasty. A printing press with movable types was invented but with some 3000 characters, the original woodblock printing remained popular. The early Chinese paper was strong enough to be used for clothing and when pleated, for body armour.

Ancient Chinese Inventions in Science

The Chinese are credited with scientific inventions taken for granted today. Among them are the seismometer to record earthquakes and the magnetic compass, originally used to align temples, relief maps and phosphorescent paint, the suspension bridge, ship’s rudder, a variety of masts and sails and the use of algebra in geometry.

Most significant were the discoveries of iron smelting around 500 BC and the crossbow with its highly penetrating arrows. Gunpowder was first manufactured by alchemists looking for the secret of eternal life.

Early History in China, Civilisation and Daily Life

Silk paintings and gowns, fine pottery and lacquer ware, porcelain in the first century AD, the discoveries embellished life at Court for the Emperor and his suite. Trading and administration in this vast empire became much easier with the advent of printing, paper money, lighter than coins, the abacus and decimal system. Transport improved with the first contour canal, the paddlewheel boat and the use of stirrups and more efficient harnesses for horses.

Dykes and the newly-discovered chain pump brought better irrigation, leading to the development of intensive farming. Agriculture was further helped by planting crops in a row with an ingenious multi tube seed drill. Horses were used from 1500 BC to pull ploughs and cast iron blades meant previously unusable land could be cultivated. From the 3rd century AD, the Chinese wheelbarrow increased efficiency for both farmers and builders.

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